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Lions still bound for Kansas City despite loss in SAC Tourney

Missed chances, free throw shortage contributes to upset

Box Score, Play-by-Play links posted below

NAIA National Tournament Information for Fans

SHAWNEE, Oklahoma  --  The start of post-season play for the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men looked much like the regular season. Well played. Most every statistical goal met. Plenty of style points and a dose of drama.

Even the constant modus operandi of Head Coach Donnie Bostwick, “work through the conditions,” appeared to be working.

Until the finish.

The #8 seed and host team, Oklahoma Baptist University, made one last free throw and a final defensive stop to upset the Lions in overtime, 79-78.

Suffering a loss in the quarterfinals of the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament will not prevent SAGU from competing in the NAIA National Championships in less than two weeks.

The top 32 teams in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) will meet in Kansas City, Missouri during March 19-25.

In a setting that favored the home team, the Lions held the lead for much of the game against a team that struggled all year to play like their preseason No. 2 ranking.

For every phase of the game that SAGU had the edge, the Bison countered with efficient play and a large surplus of free throws. Even after Oklahoma Baptist had erased the Lions’ 10-point lead and went ahead by five, 66-61, the Purple Pride had an answer.

Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Hondo HS, Ok Wesleyan Univ ) tied the score at 71 when he stole the ball from Hayden Darst and raced the length of the floor for a deuce with 0:52 remaining.

SAGU forced another clutch turnover to gain possession of the last shot of regulation at 0:31.  Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian ) took a handoff from Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill, Okla. Wesleyan Univ ) and lifted a contested, fade shot from 15-feet. It was a skoshe short.

“He can make that shot but left it short,” observed Lions Head Coach Donnie Bostwick.

Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS ), who rose to the forefront at key times in the clutch, pulled down the carom under the backboard. His buzzer-beating reverse layup bounced three times on the iron before rolling off as the horn sounded.

mills-baseline-drive“Jon made an awesome effort-play,” Bostwick pointed out. “He was flying in from the corner for a reverse putback but it just was not our night.”

“I hurried it,” Walter said in the lobby after the game. “Should’ve made it, but I pushed it. Wasn’t sure if I could get it off before the buzzer.”

The Bison made their first three shots in overtime, all in the paint. SAGU, with four starters encumbered with four fouls, were hamstrung.

Countering with three buckets of their own was the regular season champion Lions. A short jumper by Rambo and a three-pointer, the team’s 14th, by Gentry, preceded a driving layup from the elbow by Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / LR Parkview HS ).

His equalizer came at the 1:44 mark.

A foul sent Aaron Abram, last week’s NAIA National Player of the Week, to the free throw line. He split the pair for a 79-78 lead for OBU.

On SAGU’s ensuing possession they worked the ball to Walter, the team’s most accurate shooter. His try from the wing was a tad off-line. Abram reeled in the carom with 0:54 left.

The Lions defense couldn’t afford a Bison basket. They held them without one over the final 3:02 in extra time. OBU point guard Kendall Parks, with a 49% free throw imprecision, was fouled by Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Christian-Addison, Ranger College ) with thirty-one ticks to go.

He misfired twice. Adoyi laid claim to the Rawlings roundball.

For a second time the Lions had the game in their hands.

Down by one they could offset the copious surplus of free throws that swung the game in OBU’s favor.

SAGU led in practically every category, including a 14-to-7 margin in three-pointers and a game-long advantage on the boards.

The top-seed and No. 5 ranked Jungle Kings could thwart a 32-to-12 detriment in attempted free throws with a late score.

Rambo, the Cats’ catalyst, had the ball and the game in his hands. He sped around the left side of the OBU defense, and then jetted past a defender as he drove the baseline.

He leapt as he entered the lane, beating two defenders, one of them rotating to cover for a teammate. As he tried to shoot he was hit on both sides by both of the lead protectors in green.gentry-on-d

The shot never had a chance and was iron-deficient.

What appeared to be an apparent foul was a no call. Abram gripped his game-high 15th rebound with five seconds on the clock. He pitched the ball high into the air and downcourt as time and the Lions hopes evaporated.

“We got what we wanted (in the game),” Bostwick said, “but it just was not our night.”

The foiled bid was very similar to the Lions finish at home against Wayland Baptist University. A driving layup by Adoyi was quashed by a charging call to end the game.

“Congrats to OBU,” Bostwick said after the game. “They wanted it worse than we did.”

“Rambo did exactly what I asked him to,” he continued. “He attacked the basket and got fouled. Video tape validated that but it was just not called for whatever reason.”

“Part of winning on the road is not putting yourself in a situation where one play decides the game. We missed other opportunities to win the game. We missed two free throws in the game and a critical block out on an OBU free throw.”

“We did what he had to do to back to Kansas City,” the coach said, in regard to the bigger picture. “Hopefully this disappointment (the loss at OBU) will stir our fire to do something special at Nationals.”

SAGU led by as many 10 points in the first half. A 17-6 run included five triples, two by Rambo, and single treys from Gentry, Walter and Daniel Mills (Belton, Tx / Belton HS ), gave the team a 32-22 lead.

By intermission the lead was 38-34, SAGU. The Bison had hit 28% of their shots (7-of-25) but remained close thanks to converting 16-of-18 from the charity stripe.

SAGU didn’t shoot much better at 32% (11-of-34), though they did have an 8-4 advantage in three-pointers. Team Purple swished 8-of-9 at the foul line.

Trifectas from Gentry and Feemster propelled SAGU to a 45-37 upper hand at 17:12. OBU answered with a 10-2 surge to balance the score at 47 at 13:57.

The teams went back and forth with a sweet Walter dish to Adoyi knotting things at 56 at 7:09.

Displaying a hearty effort that reflected their drive to earn their way to Kansas City by winning the tournament, the Bison began making tough shots.

A three-ball by Cale Jackson spurred them to a 63-58 lead. Rambo gunned a trey before Parks swished a pair of freebies to maintain the five-point margin (66-61, 4:52).

That’s when ‘Sky’ Walter levitated. The 6’4 junior averages 11.7 shots per outing, wristed back-to-back jacks from the edge to reestablish the lead at 67-66 (3:48).

Abram continued his clutch play with a 3-ball from the top of the key and, after misses by Rambo and Walter, he scored in the paint. OBU was on top, 71-67, with 1:47 to go.

Ten seconds later Walter knifed inside for a deuce. He was called for a foul on Parks, who had 19 assists the night before in OBU’s rout of Texas Wesleyan.

Both of his foul shots went awry with 1:24 to play. The rebound was tipped away and Parks came up with the ball. Leading by two, the Bison had preserved custody.

Before the Buffalo could roam to the finish line, Darst, a 6’9 senior, had his pocket picked by Gentry, the SAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

He zoomed downcourt for an equalizing layup, and was fouled by Parks in the process. A 76% shooter from the 15-foot band, his free throw rolled off the cylinder. It proved to be costly.

SAGU dodged the bullet when they coaxed a turnover from Abram.

A Guidry miss at the end of regulation was rare for a team that prides itself with effective play in close games. They could have overcome the disparity at the foul line.

Following the game SAGU players exited the locker room and made their way to their charter bus. None mentioned the free throw obvious anomaly.

Instead, they focused on their misused opportunities down the stretch.

In overtime the Purple Pride made 3-of-6 shots to OBU’s 3-of-3. The Bison were 2-of-5 on the line as all three fouls called were against the Lions.

Basketball by the numbers

SAGU outscored OBU in basket points, 68 to 55. They made 14 triples, shooting 40% beyond the arc. The Bison had seven treys.

A statistic that reveals a combination of offensive rebounds, steals and forced turnovers is total shots taken. The Lions held a commanding 74-58 total in field goal attempts.

They won the battle of the boards, 45-43, including a 13-8 margin on the offensive glass. Both teams took good care of the ball. SAGU had nine turnovers to 11 for the Bison.

The home team was 24-of-32 on the foul line; the visitors were 10-of-12.

Rambo, the MVP of the Sooner Athletic Conference, was solid. He netted 19 points and registered five assists. At 5’10, his nine rebounds were impressive.

Gentry contributed 15 points and played error-free.

Walter chipped in with 13 points and pulled down seven boards.

Feemster finished with seven points while Adoyi added nine. He also had 10 rebounds.

Mills came off the bench to rip the nets on both of his three-point attempts in an eight point effort.

OBU was led by Abram’s 20 point / 15 rebound performance. Tyler Davis, who scored 35 for the Bison the night before, added 15.

The Bison played just eight players, and two of them were on the court for two minutes or less. SAGU used 12 players – all in the first half.

Conference Tourney Results / National Tourney Info

SAGU will spend the next week honing their game in preparation of the NAIA national tournament.

All NAIA Conference Tournaments / Results: 

Tourney Central (Info):

Brackets will be introduced at 8:00pm (CST) on March 12 when the Selection Show will be aired in an hour-long, on-line video presentation. Details will be announced next week.

Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at or at 469-658-2847.

Box Score: